Marco Rojas and Melbourne Victory Community Football Coordinator Brianna Catania spoke to KEEPUP’s Nick D’Urbano about what the club legend’s private donation will mean for their multitude of Women’s football programs.
Marco Rojas has had a front-row seat to Melbourne Victory’s evolution for over a decade and seen it become one of the biggest in the A-Leagues.
On the field, he’s remembered as a club legend during his three stints at the club, playing a key role on the pitch for their Isuzu UTE A-League side. Rojas helped Victory win silverware, make a Grand Final and won a stack of individual accolades along the way off the back of some of his incredible seasons.
Now, he is looking to make an even bigger contribution off the field, which will only help the club continue to grow.
Rojas will be donating $20,000 to help fund a range of women’s football initiatives within Melbourne Victory. His private donation is the first Victory has received to its community programs specifically.
This will include the operation of the Club’s elite women’s program and the Afghan Women’s National Team (AWT), along with B, C and Miniroos coaching license scholarships for female football coaches and funding equipment for both programs.
It was a game that had everything as Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City played out a Liberty A-League semi-final for the ages.
Rojas – who has since left Victory for South American giants Colo Colo – spoke to KEEPUP about why he decided to donate a five figure sum to the programs. His reasoning is simple.
“Having been in football for a little while, I noticed that there were quite a lot of gaps between what’s offered in the elite men’s space and the women’s… but in the men’s space and women’s space in general” he said.
“I was in a privileged position to help and I wanted to help the team so they could have things that perhaps they were missing that could help them during the season and during pre-season.”
Since first arriving at the club for his maiden stint in 2012, Rojas has seen the club’s women’s programs evolve over the best part of a decade along with witnessing the differences in resourcing between Victory’s men’s and women’s programs.
It was during his most recent stint between 2020 and 2022 that the New Zealand international found added inspiration needed to do his bit in bridging the gap.
“I think it was the closeness,” he said.
“I was playing there and I’d been there for many years over the three different periods that I was a player at the club. I was able to see the differences very clearly and very closely.
“I guess the last time when I came over here, I began to think about it a lot and realised that it was something that I wanted to help to close the gap that I had seen because of the years that I had spent at the stadium, the changing rooms and within close proximity to their team and our team.
“That’s why I wanted to help them because I had been able to see the difference between our team and their team and what resources and things that they had available and also because in general, the club definitely holds a special place for me.
“I returned there three times over my career and have very fond memories and friendships, and connections to the club, so it seemed like the right place to support.
“I hope that this donation and this support would help them close those gaps in the functions that no one really sees like the little things that are behind the scenes, that support the team the most or support the coaching staff or whatever it is.
“I still feel like there’s a lot that that can be done and I really hope that it continues to be (done).”
Rojas was at Victory in early 2022 when the club established a partnership with the AWT, who had been granted asylum in Australia following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021.
Former Socceroo and human rights activist Craig Foster played a huge role in helping evacuate the team from Kabul, in collaboration with the Australian federal government.
The partnership allowed the team to continue operating and they were placed in Victoria’s State League 4 West (Australia’s seventh tier of women’s football) where they were coached by Liberty A-League Championship winning coach Jeff Hopkins.
AWT finished third last season and won promotion to State League 3 East, where they currently sit top of the table after an undefeated start under the tutelage of new coach Jorge Leon.
“That was a really special thing to see that our club had alongside Craig Foster,” Rojas said.
“I believe he was the initiator of the conversations perhaps amongst the federation and the clubs, but it’s really special that the our club took it on.
“I was really proud to be a Victory player at that time in regards to taking on the women’s team. I was only kind of there for the beginning but it was really encouraging and I was really excited and proud, to be a part of the club.”
Rojas’ contribution will help fund Victory’s many community initiatives as well, where the club have a huge outreach through their multitude of football programs.
“This will change the environment of our weekly programs and the opportunity that we get to deliver throughout the programs that we have to offer,” Community Football Coordinator (Female & Inclusion) Bree Catania told KEEPUP.
“Not to mention the programs that we do have for participants that don’t necessarily get the opportunity to play football outside of school, so just giving them that extra opportunity is a great benefit to obviously us and the schools that we work with.
“I think it’s a great opportunity that the women in particular get to have. I know I’m currently working with two schools that are female specific programs.
“This is going to help me massively in terms of kickstarting new programs, especially for females, and when it comes to the cultural backgrounds as well. I’m currently working with Islamic girls that don’t necessarily get the opportunity, or where they have that religion belief, where they can’t play it outside of school.
“It’s really great that we can actually give this opportunity during school hours as well, which is not only going to benefit the community but also the women in particular.”
The extra funding will also help Catania with her own personal ambitions, being one of the female coaches to receive a coaching scholarship and obtain her B license.
“This donation has purely helped me develop my coaching,” Catania said.
“I’m going to be able to get an extra qualification with my license, which who knows where this will take me in my future, having that extra guidance and support with me so I think this is only going to help and benefit the women, especially in this kind of industry where it’s growing, and with the World Cup coming up as well.
“It can obviously make us employ more females and not only that, we can work with our female athletes, just a little bit more broader, which will then give us the opportunity to have that female space within our community, which is a really exciting time.”